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Widow Lives on Cruise Ship All Year; Her Ticket Costs $164K

Image: Widow Lives on Cruise Ship All Year; Her Ticket Costs $164K
In this file photo, Crystal Serenity Cruise Ship preparing for her departure from Port Louis, Mauritius. (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 11:03 AM

Lee Wachtstetter has lived full-time on a cruise ship for the past seven years — just a few years after her husband died.

The 86-year-old widow told USA Today that she sold her 5-bedroom Fort Lauderdale home at the urging of her daughter, who told her to carry on her husband's love of travel.

"The day before my husband died of cancer in 1997, he told me, 'Don't stop cruising.' So here I am today living a stress-free, fairy-tale life," she recalled in an interview published Tuesday.

"My husband introduced me to cruising. Mason was a banker and real estate appraiser and taught me to love cruising. During our 50-year marriage we did 89 cruises. I've done nearly a hundred more and 15 world cruises."

She now calls the Crystal Serenity her full-time home, and keeps an active schedule aboard the 11-year-old ship that regularly hosts over 1,000 passengers.

"The crewmembers bend over backwards to keep me happy. Some are almost like family now. If they don't have what I want, they get it. Even if they have to buy it off the ship or make it to my specific needs," she explained. The crew often find her doing needlepoint in one of the lounges, and she's even gotten a few of them involved.

"It's my second love, have been doing it for 50 years. I've even helped teach it to some passengers. Everything I make I give to crewmembers. Gives me great pleasure."

The Crystal Serenity has been voted Conde Nast Traveler's #1 "reader's choice" cruise line for 21 years straight, and Wachtstetter estimates that it costs her an annual $164,000 to live aboard the ship.

That covers her seventh-deck stateroom, restaurant meals, gratuities, her nightly ballroom dance classes, as well as the captain's cocktail parties.

"I dance every night for a couple hours after dinner, have been doing it for years. And I've also trained with the ship's dance instructors," she said.

Asked about her favorite destination, Wachtstetter explained that after visiting "almost any country that has a port," she doesn't get off the ship very often, but always makes an exception for Istanbul.

"I can't resist the Grand Bazaar," Wachstetter said. "You can find gorgeously regal or glitzy outfits there, perfect for formal or casual wear and not terribly expensive. I have to restrain myself every time because of my limited cabin space."

She also steps foot on land whenever the ship docks in Miami, where her children and grandchildren live. Between those visits and her laptop computer, she manages to stay in touch daily with her family.

"I hear from one of them every day, and visit with them whenever we dock in Miami. Last year we docked in Miami five times," she said.

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Lee Wachtstetter has lived full-time on a cruise ship for the past seven years — just a few years after her husband died.
widow, lives, cruise, ship
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2015-03-20
Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 11:03 AM
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